Posts tagged Ohio

Ohio Ice Cream Wars: Jeni’s vs. Mitchell’s

 

Ohio inspires ice cream makers. The proof? Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams started serving scoops in 2002 in Columbus and blossomed into an ice cream dynasty. Jeni Britton Bauer’s book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home has become New York Times Best-Selling cookbook teaching regular cooks to craft Jeni’s signature flavors like Brambleberry Crisp, Salty Caramel, and Wildberry Lavender (a personal fav). You can find 11 scoop shops here in Ohio along with several in Tennesse–plus a new local just opened in Chicago. Jeni’s ice creams have garnered national acclaim and awards (James Beard, check).

Close up of Jeni's Ice Cream

But Jeni’s isn’t the only ice cream shop in town. Mitchell’s started in 1999 when brothers Pete and Mike decided to shelve their degrees in psychology (that’d be Pete) and philosophy (Mike’s also the ice cream chef) for a pursuit of sweets. They have either stores dotting Ohio, with another coming soon in the burgeoning Ohio City area.

Mitchell's Ice Cream

Here’s what both shops are known for:

  • Taste all you want. Seriously. You can ask for little taster spoons of all the flavors available.
  • Locally sourced ingredients. Fresh-picked berries. Local ales. Mitchell’s even marks ice creams with a 100, meaning the ingredients came mostly from within 100 miles of where the ice cream is made.
  • Lines. Well, when you can get taster spoons of just about everything and the ice cream is fabulous, are you surprised?
  • Awesome customer service–shiny happy people all around

 

 

Mitchell's chocolate on the left, Jeni's on the right

Mitchell’s chocolate on the left, Jeni’s on the right

Now the differences:

Jeni’s

In Mr. Squid’s words, “Jeni’s is more of an experience than an ice cream.” Where else can you get Goat Cheese and Red Cherry Ice Cream or Bangkok Peanut (sadly this ice cream that heats up in your mouth hasn’t been available lately)?

  • Artisan spins on familiar flavors–Ndali estate vanilla bean not “Vanilla”
  • Hipster zibe abounds at the shop
  • $9.99 a pint

 

Mitchell’s

This is the place the team goes to after basketball tournaments, the place where you see you neighbors and people linger while savoring sweets. That’s not to say their ice creams are lacking in creativity–or quality–the newly introduced vegan line (I had salted caramel pecan last week) entices visitors to try something new.

  • Familiar favorites made better–hello, super-sized Belgian chocolate chunks in the Rocky Road and organic mint in the Chocolate Mint ice cream
  • Laid back feel and coloring paper for the kids
  • $5.99 a pint

 

The verdict around our house–when you want something a little different head to Jeni’s. But for the creamiest, richest dark chocolate Mitchell’s is our regular spot.

 

Your turn: Have you tried Jeni’s and Mitchell’s ice creams? Which one was your favorite?

 

 

 

 

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Carrot garden on a plate

I’m always looking for ways to get my kids to eat carrots. This idea comes from one of my favorite places in Ohio–the Culinary Vegetable Institute, CVI. If you’re not following Farmer Lee Jones’ twitter feed–the man behind CVI–you should. (He tweets from his tractor.) That’s where I saw this picture of this ingenious idea using fresh carrots.


Now Farmer Jones has the benefit of pulling carrots from his own garden. I bought my at a local grocers Mustard Seed Market. I couldn’t find any with the leafy greens close to the carrot so I had to improvise. I wedged the greens into the cut stalks before placing the carrots into the black beans.


I did steam my carrots briefly before serving them, but you could also offer these raw. Next time I’d add some asparagus and radishes maybe too.


Kids’ reaction: My youngest, already a carrot fan, loved the playful presentation and cleaned her plate. My tween reminded me that she, “didn’t like carrots,” took a couple bites, finished the beans and left most of her carrots on the plate. Ditto for my teen. But that’s about two more bites than they’d normally eat, which I consider success.

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Bierberg Bakery’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pot

Until next year.

I couldn’t help but post a farewell to the ladies at Bierberg Bakery. Each year a group of ladies come together in a tiny shop tucked away in German Village, Columbus, Ohio, to make Christmas cookies. These are the same recipes that the owner, Helen Bierberg Walsh’s grandmother brought over from Germany in the early 1900s.

The bakery opens from October 20th to January 1st each year. They make traditional German sweets like lebkuchen, hernchen, stollen and other favorites by hand, spending their hours roasting hazelnuts or dipping confections in chocolate and chatting, sometimes in English, sometimes German.

You can click above to hear Johanna explain how she finishes off Wilhelm cookies by giving them a chocolate bath. Walsh’s father Gustav (who Johanna calls “Gus”) came up with the idea of using old cookie tins to make “the chocolate pot.” There’s a total of three cookie tins. One large, overturned tin makes the base and has a door cut out of it where he placed a single lamp light (pretty much a light bulb attached to a plug-in cord). Then, another tin was welded onto the base tin. Within the top tin, a smaller tin sits welded inside, perfectly insulated. The top tin holds the melted chocolate.

I’ll admit, I gushed over the innovative chocolate pot. I mean, there are articles, books, classes devoted to how to properly temper chocolate to give it a rich sheen while not overcooking it. Try buying a chocolate temper machine and you’re looking at prices topping $400. Yet Gus’s device–complete with a two-pronged fork–do even better (they don’t even need a thermometer to check the temperature). As I marveled aloud about the chocolate pot, I asked to no one in particular, “I wonder how he came up with this?”

Johanna immediately responded, “He was German.” That seemed to say it all.

Until next year…

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Bierberg Bakery in German Village, Columbus



Open only two months out of the year, Bierberg Bakery has been on my list of “must see” culinary enclaves for nearly three years. I heard it mentioned in passing when I was working on a story about visiting Columbus, Ohio, over the holidays. A Google search turned up a handful of entries, with not much more detail than “try the cookies.” No website. I tried an email address. No response. I tried calling. Nothing.

How does a bakery survive with virtually no advertising—not even a working phone number—and it opens October 20th and closes New Year’s Day? (I learned later that the magic phone number is only answered during those two months.) Over the past weekend, I was able to get my questions answered and even sample a few cookies.

Helen Bierberg Walsh seemed more comfortable working as we talked. With a pastry bag in hand, pressing out hazelnut cookies onto a parchment lined seemingly football-field-sized pan. She explained that her grandmother, Theresa Bierberg, had started the bakery in 1913 to support her family (her husband had fallen ill after a stroke). Before immigrating to Columbus, Theresa had trained as a baker in Germany. Helen recalls that her grandmother had told her children she had “made a cake for the Kaiser,” which would be the equivalent of the president of the United States requesting a sweet from your bakery.

Helen’s father, Gustav (or “Gus”) took over the bakery from his mother—Theresa’s other son became a Catholic priest. The bakery moved from its original location to 729 South Fifth Street in the German Village section of Columbus in 1971. Since then, for two months out of the year, Helen continues her family’s tradition of making holiday cookies for those who know where to find her.

I sampled the Wilhelm cookies that you’ll see Johanna making in the video above. The bars have raspberry filling tucked between two layers of thin pound cake, topped with marzipan and then dunked in chocolate. After trying just one, my Christmas list came to mind and I thought of all the people who would be receiving a specially wrapped box of Bierberg confections for the holidays. I asked Helen whether she shipped cookies and she said, “Sure. But it has to be ordered before December 10th.” I figured this was because the cookies wouldn’t arrive in time for Christmas if they were ordered after that.

“No,” Helen explained. “After that it just gets too crowded at the post office.”

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Eat More Flowers & other lessons from the Culinary Vegetable Institute

Hand-crafted goat cheeses. Lavender lemonade. Braised beef potstickers. Pork tongue (it was delicious!). Tonight I sampled foods from a variety of noted restaurants and chefs at the 2010 Food & Wine Celebration at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio. The event raises money to support Veggie U, a farm-centered, hands-on experience for children designed to teach them healthy living–and eating.

While I’ve been to tasting events before, what impressed me about this event was how fresh the ingredients were and how committed each chef was to using sustainable, local products. Take Chris and Veronica Laramie a husband-wife team who were showcasing their food–and philosophy–from their restaurant, eVe, in Berkley, California. “We make everything from scratch, in small batches, and we take classic flavor combinations and turn them on their head,” said Veronica in a recent interview with fellow foodie blogger, Sarah Henry of LettuceEatKale. Veronica pointed out eVe’s cantalope gazpacho as an example of classic meets fresh ingredients plus culinary creativity.

Reinvented classic combinations. I like that. Here’s just some of the lessons I took away from the event:

Veggies meet fruit. My favorite dish of the night (and this surprised me!)–a simple combination of watermelon, cucumber and feta. Fruit salad is getting a little boring around our house. Why not toss some veggies and strong cheese in the mix?

Flowers meet dessert. As a kid, my mom often used edible flowers with savory dishes and desert. There’s something decadent about eating flowers–and I’m not talking mint or herbs. Try adding a pansy on top of your next cupcake, a chive blossom served alongside rice, or bread and fry squash blossoms (note: you should make sure your flowers are edible and thoroughly washed before eating).

Meat meet vegetables. Sometimes I get in the habit of thinking of veggies as a side dish–not the entree. Juicy heirloom tomatoes, meaty squash and savory corn relish have left me reconsidering my dinner menu.

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